Indian start-up carrier, Vistara, will launch passenger operation from January 9, 2015 after being awarded its Air Operator Permit (AOP) from the regulatory authority, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) this past week. The airline will initially operate from its base at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi to Mumbai and Ahmedabad and has activated distribution channels for tickets in the past couple of days.
“I am very excited as this day is the culmination of many months of hard work. The activation of distribution channels is our first interface with our customer and with this, we embark on a journey to fulfill our brand promise of seamless travel experience,” said Phee Teik Yeoh, chief executive officer, Vistara.
The start-up has bold ambitions to set a new industry benchmark for others to follow in India. It will serve a mixture of metros and non-metros markets from Delhi where there is a clear demand for a full-service carrier.
In its first stage of development Vistara has committed to lease 20 A320s, including seven neos, the first of which are due to be delivered in 2017. These aircraft will cover the airline’s first five years of operations up until the end of 2019.
Delivering on a brand promise of “a world class flying experience” Vistara is the first full service carrier in India to introduce a ‘Premium Economy’ class to the domestic market. It will configure its A320s in a 148-seat arrangement with 16 seats in Business Class, 36 in Premium Economy and 96 in Economy Class.
Its launch routes will place Vistara it on two of the country’s most significant domestic routes. The Delhi – Mumbai route is the country’s busiest and in the last 12 months (November 2013 – October 2014) more than 4.3 million passengers flew between the two cities. Across the same period Ahmedabad was the ninth busiest route from Delhi with just under 815,000 point-to-point passengers.
The Delhi – Mumbai route is currently served by Air India, Go Air, IndiGo, Jet Airways and SpiceJet which together offer up to 57 daily flights (based on January 2015 flight schedule), offering over 10,000 seats in each direction. The Delhi – Ahmedabad route is currently served by Air India, IndiGo, Jet Airways and SpiceJet with ten daily flights offering over 1,700 seats in each direction.
Vistara, formerly Tata SIA Airlines Limited (TSAL), is a joint venture between Indian conglomerate Tata Sons Ltd and Asian carrier Singapore Airlines. The name Vistara is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Vistaar’, which means ‘limitless expanse’, and draws inspiration from the brand’s domain -- the ‘limitless’ sky.
Its logo is derived from a ‘yantra’, a perfect mathematical form that reflects the unbounded universe. The start-up says its “fluid interconnecting lines” reflect the seamless experience the airline wants to offer its customers.
The launch of Vistara early next year represents a notable development in India’s aviation sector as the Tata family has played an integral role in the development of the local sector with JRD Tata obtaining the first pilot’s licence in the country in 1929 and launching commercial services under the Tata Airlines name in 1932. Tata Airlines became a public entity in 1946 and was renamed Air India and when later nationalised in 1953, JRD Tata was appointed chairman, a role he kept until 1977.
The domestic Indian market from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport has changed significantly over the past five years. Between 2008 and 2013 capacity has risen 31.8 per cent with an average annual growth of 6.4 per cent, but the main operators have changed considerably as Indian Airlines was swallowed by Air India and Kingfisher Airlines collapsed. Low-cost carrier IndiGo (27.1 per cent in 2013) is now has the largest share of domestic capacity from Delhi, although Air India (24.5 per cent) continues to grow its offering.
In our analysis, below, we highlight the largest domestic markets from Delhi over the 12 month period between November 2013 and October 2014 based on point-to point passenger demand from Indira Gandhi International Airport.